The New Orleans Saints’ defense this season experienced a remarkable turnaround going from the worst defense historically to the 4th ranked defense. The most dramatic improvement came from the pass defense which ranked second in the league. A unit that allowed such enhancement were the cornerbacks.
The cornerbacks were headlined by one of the most underrated free agent signings in Keenan Lewis. Lewis was as shut down as can be consistently taking away the opponent’s number one receiver. In the beginning of the season, when paired with Jabari Greer, they made up one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the injury bug hit the corners hard as they lost Patrick Robinson, who was developing nicely under Rob Ryan’s system, and Greer. This left the Saints to play with second year player Corey White. Though most fans look upon him negatively, he played a solid as one can asked from a guy who was 4th or 5th on the depth chart to begin the season.
Then later in the season, with the loss of safety Kenny Vaccaro, who was logging some serious minutes at corner, the Saints were forced to play the likes of Trevin Wade and Rod Sweeting. Going into the offseason, the amount of injuries created a lot of questions of who was staying and who was going.
Greer was released in what was an emotional wave of cuts. The combination of his age, salary, and uncertain return from his knee injury left the Saints no choice but to make that heart wrenching decision to cut ties. Greer was an integral part of the 2009 Super Bowl team and his contributions will surely be missed.
The fate of the other injured corner Robinson still remains to be seen. Coming off of injury, it is possible that Robinson end up being release due to salary cap issues. With all the turnover, the Saints are going to have to some serious work in the offseason.
Luckily there are options as far as free agency goes. Though it would be nice, the top tier options like Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes will be out of the Saints’ price range. However, guys like Tarell Brown, Vontae Davis, and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie could possibly be had. Early rumblings say that the Saints will be targeting Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn.
The more likely, and more financial friendly route, will be through the draft. The most ideal situation would be if Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard falls, but the more likely options include Jason Verrett (TCU) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State). I believe the most interesting prospects are Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State) and Marcus Roberson (Florida).
Joyner has the ability to play corner and safety and brings Vaccaro-like versatility. Roberson is probably one of the most physical corners in this draft and excels in man to man. Both players have attributes coveted by Rob Ryan’s system.
Whatever the case, expect there to be some action as the front office will try to add depth to the secondary. Lewis will be expected to continue his shut down play, and the defensive coaching staff is actually very high on young guys like White and Sweeting. It will take some work, but I believe the cornerbacks will once again be a strength for the Saints going forward.